a pretty young girl in boots on his floor
by august

Faith finds Pernod in his cupboard, champagne too. She loosens the cork and pops it straight into his chest. He's not a Slayer, he's not even a Watcher any more, and he'll bruise tomorrow. She stretches up to reach his blender and her jacket lifts. He counts one, two, three stakes slid into the back of her jeans, wood pressing against skin. He wonders whether they ever splinter.

He must be drunk because he wants to ask her.

He was drinking something, scotch maybe, before she arrived. Although he's not entirely sure 'arrived' is an appropriate description for someone who breaks into your house and flops down on your couch saying, "entertain me." He hadn't thrown her out then and there. He'd tutted and scolded but he hadn't thrown her out.

Better not to think about why.

What he had said was, "Faith, if one breaks into a house, one should clean up the glass."

She laughed, rocked back on her heels and said, "I thought it was the Watcher that stayed behind to clean up the mess."

He hadn't said, I'm not a Watcher any more. He had wondered whether she knew, whether she was being deliberately provocative. The thought amused him because, really, everything about Faith was deliberately provocative.

He may have slurred when he lectured, "a true Watcher should teach his Slayer that there doesn't have to be mess."

She just shrugged, moved past him to his kitchen and started opening his cupboards. "Guess I never had a true Watcher, then. They did have a habit of dying on me."

He watched her paw through his cupboards until she found the Pernod and a cheap bottle of champagne he couldn't remember buying. She flashed a smile at him when she found them and said, "okay, now, where's your blender?"

He pointed to the other side of the kitchen. He watched her pull the blender down off the shelf.

He says, while her back is turned, "how many Watchers have you had, exactly?"

"Exactly three." She says; a bottle in each hand, she pours the liquor without measurement. She slams the lid on the blender and stares straight at him as the ice crushes and the liquid mixes.

She's performing for him; everything she does, every movement in her is a performance. Exaggerated, unreal. He thinks of Faith and he thinks of deception. He could put her Watcher, any of her Watchers, through a wall: Faith is nineteen and unhinged and it shouldn't be like this.

"It's very rare for a Slayer to outlive her Watcher."

"So I've been told."

"The last was, I think, Kainu the Finnish Slayer."

"Gee Giles, ever talk about anything but vampire slaying? You must be a real hit with the ladies."

His voice is short and tight when he says, "then what exactly did you come here to talk about?"

She throws the blender lid across the kitchen, landing it in the sink. She slides the container along the kitchen counter and he catches it. She says, "drink."

"What are you doing here?"

She shrugs. "I heard what happened with the Council. Wanted to see if it's true."

Giles looks at the blender and passes it back to her. "It is."

She leans on the kitchen counter and stares at him. "You're gonna be replaced, you know."

"We all get replaced."

"Nope, not me. I die. Another one is born."

That's exactly a replacement, he thinks, but he guesses she knows that. Her being here makes her a replacement for the Slayer before her. And they're all replacements for Buffy.

She's fluid but languid and she saunters to him with too much confidence for her age. She picks up his hand and places it on the blender, holds it there, strokes it a little. It's tactical manipulation and it saddens him. He thinks, I would have trained you better than this.

"Drink," she repeats.

"No, I think I've had enough," and he's not sure whether he's talking about the drink or her in his living room. "Perhaps you have, too."

"You gonna throw me out? Like to see you try."

Twenty years ago, maybe, he might've had a chance. The summer before he changed his life he had power something like Faith's, turnstyling through his brain. He might've had a chance or at least done some damage in the process. "I'm not going to throw you out."

She laughs and her finger skims the top of the blender. "Five by five." He watches her. After all, she's a Slayer and until yesterday he was a Watcher. She sucks on her finger.

He asks, "what are you doing here?"

"You don't like me much, do you?"

He sometimes forgets that she is only nineteen.

"I don't know you. In my line of work," he stops, remembers he's been fired, "with my line of work it was an occupational hazard. To not trust people you don't know. Or people you've just met."

"But I'm a Slayer."

She was more like a Slayer, like the Slayers he'd read about in the diaries, than Buffy. Slayers weren't supposed to have friends, emotional attachments. Slayers weren't even supposed to have a sense of humour. The Slayers he'd read about were more like Faith, rendered unstable by their gift. He's seen it, known it, since she first arrived, since their first training together. And she was deadlier because of it, maybe.

"I came here and I thought, I thought she would be more like me. But she has this whole school thing, and friends. She has friends. And you. So I thought I could be more like her. I could train and what-not."

She'll never be like Buffy.

"But you know what? It bores the fuck out of me." She laughs. "So it's you, Giles, it's you I'm interested in. Cos I think you and me, we're the same."

He starts to protest, starts to say he couldn't possibly imagine the things she's done to stay alive. But he knows there's no way she could understand who he was, where he'd come from either. So he surprises himself by saying, "maybe you're right."

She unbuttons a sleeve on his shirt; he lets her unbutton his sleeve. Her fingers are cold as they trace the tattoo on his skin. She says through dark red lips, "got the tattoo to prove it."

She's touching the smallest part of his skin, stroking the tiniest bit of flesh. All he can say is, "Faith" and he's not sure whether it's an invitation or a rejection. With one hand she's pushed the blender back to him and the other she's tracing the outline of his tattoo.

"We're not what they wanted, you know. We're not like the others, we're not like Buffy."

He says again, "Faith."

"This life bores you too, doesn't it? You see what she could be, your Slayer, you see the power she has. Don't you remember what it was like? To not care what happened after?"

He remembers waking up with someone else's blood on his pillow, down one side of his face. He remembers the base, abject desire that ruled his life. A person doesn't forget those things.

He pushes her hand off him but doesn't push her away. She has four tattoos and up close her hands are scarred almost beyond recognition. He thinks: Faith, Faith, Faith.

He drinks straight from the blender.

"It's called Sex in the Afternoon." She smiles at him. "Do you like it?"

He ignores her raised eyebrow and repeats, with no more clarity, "what are you doing here?"

"Thought you could use some cheering up."

"And what makes you think that drinking this swill," he glances down at the drink and grimaces, "is going to make me feel any better?"

"Cos we're gonna drink it and then I'm gonna fuck you on your couch and you're gonna be smiling for days." She unwinds the scarf around her neck and he watches as it curls and curls on the floor.

He breathes in and says, "you're drunk" but what he means to say is dangerous. He doesn't say no.

"Yup. Deadly, too. Dusted six on the way over here. Could've gone on all night." She smiles at him, moves into his body space. "Maybe still can."

The fact that Giles has only made a few bad decisions in his life is outweighed by the fact that they've all been monumentally bad ones.

She walks to him, takes the drink out of his hands. Presses his fingers between hers. "Thing is, you've already let me in. You're already onboard, Giles. If you're going to be bad, why not be wicked bad?"

She's predatory, this one, a different kind of Slayer than his own. He's not sure how good a Watcher he would have been to her, fuck, he's not sure how good a Watcher he was to Buffy. But Buffy never kissed him, never pulled his bottom lip with her teeth.

He holds her away at arm's length. "What is this?"

"What do you want it to be?"

(Can't hold her down long enough to find out what's real.)

His voice is measured, even, calm. "I don't really think it's appropriate for it to be anything, do you?"

She doesn't answer, stands closer to him though, close enough so that she's stroking him through his trousers. His flesh is weak, maybe his mind is too because he's responding, everything in him is responding.

"Poor Giles," she whispers in his ear, "look but never touch, right?" She pushes him back; he falls into the couch. "But you never watched me, did you?" "No," he says honestly, "never before."

She crawls, literally crawls, into his lap. Either her hands are moving fast or he is thinking slowly because she's suddenly holding his belt in front of his face and then wrapping it around his neck. "I could kill you." He's counted three stakes at her back, there's a carving knife in her boot and his hand lingers past her breast as he reaches into her inside jacket pocket for her jack-knife.

She smiles when she sees it, drops the belt and leans into his touch. She moans exaggeratedly and sing-songs, "why Daddy, you like knives."

There are sirens going off in his head, red and white lights flashing across his vision and even if he didn't have twenty years training as a Watcher he'd still know this was a Bad Idea.

He doesn't care.

He tosses the knife across the room and then pulls her to him, hard. His hand slides underneath her jacket and throws one, two, three stakes across the room. He trails a hand down her skirt, her calf and into the side of her boot. He has no intention of fucking an armed Slayer. The carving knife falls in a pile with the others. "No more weapons, I hope?" he asks as she shrugs out of her jacket. He watches shirt, jacket, skirt fall to the ground. When she goes to unzip her boots, he stills her hands with his. "No. Leave them on."

She laughs loud. He kisses her to shut her up.

It's been a long time since he's had this push-and-pull sex; indelicate and indiscriminate. It's a struggle to keep up with her, but somehow he's above her and pressing her into the couch. She gasps when he first pushes into her and it occurs to him that it almost sounds real. She's whispering in his ear, nipping at his ear and all the words in his brain and in his ear run together so that all he can think about is the constant shiver underneath his skin and Faith flipping him over onto his back.

He focuses on her movements, lets starts of words escape his lips like a fit, "yes, fuck, yes, Faith, fuck." She lets her weight lean against him and slows it down. Her chin rests on his shoulder, sharp jawbone digging at his muscle. His fingers rub against her, trying to find the new rhythm of her hips. He thinks he may just be too old to fuck with this kind of abandon. Certainly, he's not smart enough to stop.

She whispers in his ear, "call me Buffy."

Something breaks.

He pushes up hard and she hits the floor. And when he looks at her all he sees is a pretty young girl in boots. It's so much like the old days he has to sit up and shake his head. He breathes in a few times but still wants to crush her windpipe, wants to do something to pretend she hadn't said what she really did say.

He glimpses something quickly before it disappears. The look on her face, like she knows she'll never be the one he wants; she'll never be smart enough or strong enough to stay alive. She's probably been outrunning this since she dusted her first vamp. It was the rhythm that she moved on him with: it's not enough, not enough, never enough.

He guesses she sees the anger in his eyes because she crawls back to him, nuzzles his knees apart, strokes his cock slowly. "Aw, don't be mad at me." He realises he feels nothing for her; she could be anyone. Just another pretty young girl in boots on his floor.

Her lipstick is dull, mostly worn off and she's moving her lips down on him with a smile. His hips jerk, his body betrays him but he has a fistful of her hair and he yanks her away from him. He swears loudly as her teeth graze his cock but he has her hair in his hand and he stands, bringing her with him.

"I'm drunk, Faith, and so are you." Her hair is wound around his hand and he forces himself to breathe in, to quell whatever it is that wants to make her sorry for exposing him as a lecherous old, man. He strokes her hair carefully, like a goodbye. "Please get dressed. This was a terrible, unfair thing. Please get dressed."

He doesn't want to watch her collect her clothes, her stakes off the floor. It's hard to look composed when you still have an erection. A book narrowly misses his head as he climbs his stairs but he knows if she'd wanted to kill him she would have. The front door slams as he twists the taps of the shower. He closes his eyes and stands under the running water. With one arm against the wall and the other on his cock, he orgasms quickly. He thinks, mostly, how strange it is that there always seems to be further to fall.


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